Half way through the year already? Where’s it all going?
In case it’s going too fast for you to keep up with all the awesome posts here, here’s a summary of the best articles since March. (You can see previous summaries here).
Next Generation Journalist
It’s the end of the first quarter – here’s a wrap of all the highlights you might have missed on the blog so far in 2010..
Future of Journalism
Time for another quick recap on the journalism posts on here since my last round-up in August.
Future of Journalism
The 6×6 series
It’s been a busy few months on here! Here’s a wrap up of the journalism related posts since my last summary back in April.
The future of journalism
This is why we’re entrepreneurs :: an inspiring video which makes any creative want to leap off their seat, start a production company. NOW!
Why Journalists Deserve Low Pay :: Richard G Picard’s article makes me realise the utter foundations of journalism have changed and are no longer economical
Life After Newspapers? :: the newspaper journalists who are reinventing themselves after being made redundant
Future of Journalism presentation :: in June and July I gave a couple of presentations outlining the crisis in journalism and it’s possible future. You can watch it here.
Noded working: a new way to do journalism? :: how noded working can help the new generation of freelance creative entrepreneurs
Introducing: the journalist of the future :: some of you said it was great, others naiive, others optimistic; others said it was rubbish. Whatever you might think, if you haven’t read it yet, here’s my picture of the skills and abilities of the journalist of the future.
The Journalist of the future: your reaction :: a neat summary of what some of you guys said about that article
One Week In Iraq :: how I put together my small multimedia piece reporting from Iraq
History Alive! :: two brilliant examples of how multimedia can be used to bring history to life
Choose your multimedia, wisely :: a look at the individual strengths and weaknesses of video, audio, images and interactivity. Now choose it wisely!
Open Source for multimedia journalists :: a brief skit over popular open source software the multimedia journo should have in their armoury
What does #digitalbritain mean for journalism? :: why Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Report is a massive FAIL for journalism
Here’s a summary of some of the practical journalism posts I’ve written this year.
Great free apps for multimedia journalists :: the most popular one by far, covering some online sites to aid journo production
Shooting multimedia-a lot to juggle :: the challenges of covering stories in multimedia in the field; in this case, Iraq.
The ultimate budget film making kit :: a guide to how I kitted myself out for video journalism on a £500 budget
The radio emergency survival guide :: how radio newsrooms should prepare for major news events
Making the most of your network :: a good example of how to use other journalists in your group
Three ways to instantly improve your newswriting :: a quick guide to broadcast writing
Five even quicker ways to improve your newswriting :: more tips
Covering court cases-the questions you were afraid to ask :: everything from what to wear in court, and where to sit
How to avoid being THAT annoying PR person :: advice for those unfortunate PR professionals
9 questions for newsreaders :: a checklist for newsreaders
There’s no doubting that video is an incredible medium. It has the power to transport us to other worlds, feel other peoples’ feelings and can affect our emotions quite dramatically, when done well. Ultimately, video can move people to action.
Part of the secret to doing good video is choosing the right stories to tell with video in the first place. Read that sentence again and you get an important truth about video: it can do some stories, issues and subject matter really well. Everything else, it does badly.
What is video good at?
When I give talks, lectures or workshops about online video I usually start by laying out what video can and cannot do. This is my list of its favourite subjects:
- explosions, fire, sparks and noise (ever wondered why these always lead the news bulletins?)
- action and movement: every video must involve someone doing something
- awe-inspiringly big things like landscapes
- amazingly small things that our eyes can’t see – but also anything closeup in general
- human stories and emotion – no matter how complex
What is video bad at?
Human emotions are probably the most complex things out there but video can convey them better than any other medium. When it comes to other complex issues however, video is out of its depth:
- Politics and meetings: much of it happens behind closed doors, is polemic and involves little physical movement
- Business, economics and theory: similarly non-visual at first glance
- Statistics, numbers and data: video and data journalism don’t sit side by side
- Interviews (yes, really): video is not designed for people sitting down and talking
However, almost everyone involved in video finds themselves working on the latter a lot of the time. The nightly news has to cover politics and the economy. A management accountancy firm has to make videos about management accountancy. We all have to run interviews (…do we?)
So the question then is: how do we make this shit interesting?
“There’s no such thing as boring knowledge. Only boring presentation.”
I start with this quote in mind. Although I’m putting down business, politics and data as video subjects, there is no denying they are hugely interesting subjects in and of themselves. But to make them work on video we have to put in some extra work.There are some tested techniques filmmakers use to inject interest into potentially dry stories – many of these you will recognise from television, where programme makers face this challenge regularly.
In other cases, we are still struggling to make it interesting – so there’s potential for disruption from brave new film makers (that’s you).
Tell a real human story as access into the issue. Ever wondered why news packages about gas price rises always start with an old lady filling up her kettle and worrying about her winter fuel allowance? That’s how journalists try to get people to care about a story that is actually about oil prices and Russian diplomacy.
This, incidentally is the secret behind great films that promote either non-profits or business. Duckrabbit’s TV campaign for Oxfam uses the real story of a donor to make us care; this series by Phos Pictures uses the same device to advertise -wait for it: a gym. It almost made me sign up, and I live 4,000 miles away.
If every story should be human, it must also be visual. Video, like photography, graphic design and web design is about using images to convey the message – not words. A common crime of directors is to rely on dialogue, voice over and interviews to tell the story when ideally people should get it with the sound turned off.
At its most simple: if you’re filming an interview with an IT specialist for your website, don’t just film a straight interview. Make it visual: film them at work, going for a walk, cycling to work, eating lunch, playing squash whatever – it’s the eye-candy video is made for. Done well, visually led films can turn an interview with a blogger (snore…) into something quite wonderful.
Amy O’Leary makes the point in this talk that surprise is a key element to a successful story. We love surprises because they release happy chemicals into our brains. You can hook your viewers on the surprise drug in two ways: you can be clever with your narrative to create a set-up and punchline throughout a piece (difficult) or you can smack them in the face with a wet fish.
For example, if your bread and butter is a weekly video interview with a leader in your field, why not do the interview while they’re getting their haircut? I’m serious. Find an amicable barber and you’ve got something easily set up, that fills its purpose and is visual at the same time…all while sticking annoyingly in your audiences mind. (If you manage to pull it off in your organisation, let me know!)
UPDATE: jump down to the comments section to see how Reuters do this effectively with a strand of their videos
.04 be useful
If you can’t be interesting then at least make sure your video is useful. Some people will sit through a 20 minute panel discussion if they know the information is important to them.
If you can’t even be useful, then for the love of God…
.05 be short
Some people say videos on the web shouldn’t be longer than two minutes. You can definitely tell a good story in less than this. While I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule, I do believe anything longer than five minutes is a result of laziness or ego (please note: I am regularly guilty of both of these).
Does your video have an upside down flying rhino in it? If not, it probably doesn’t warrant being longer than two minutes.
That said, if you’ve got a great human story, that you’re telling visually and is packed full of surprise: then please, I will give you hours of my attention.
So in summary: if you can’t be interesting, useful or concise, you’ve picked the wrong medium.
The video decision workflow
To help you out I’ve designed this video decision workflow which puts all the above points into place. Start at the top and hopefully it will help you decide whether or not to tell your next story in video. As well as journalists and documentarians, it is also designed very much with commercial factual video in mind too. I know there are a lot of B2B magazines, agencies or industry websites out there wanting to use video but doing it ineffectively.
Please note: although the image has a © symbol on it, I am releasing it under a Creative Commons Licence for attribution. Please takeaway and use, but give credit if you publish it elsewhere.
It’s time for another roundup of the most popular posts from this blog from the last quarter. I put these together every three months to put the most interesting stuff together in one place – and show up some posts which might be harder to find.
Don’t forget – to make sure you never miss a new post, subscribe to the email newsletter on the right hand side of this screen. And you can keep track of me online on Twitter, Tumblr, Audioboo and Vimeo.
Six new ways to use online video: six ideas on how publishers, organisations and businesses can be more creative with video.
How a university took a risk with video – and it paid off : a brilliant example of why being brave with video pays dividends for those with the foresight to do it.
Storytelling – the changing game: audiences are getting involved in the storytelling process – find out why that matters for journalists.
Reacting to a riot: the hard lessons I learned during the summer riots in London.
Lessons from the first ever novel for the first online video producers: what do novels, cinema, radio, television and now, online video, have in common? Find out here.
The value of making your journalism ‘finishable’ : the Economist prides itself on being ‘finishable’ – why doesn’t more journalism do the same?
Lessons I’ve learned as a freelance journalist with a portfolio career : six tips on how to manage a busy portfolio of work and keep your head above the water.
10 myths which will stop you innovating in journalism: journalism needs innovators, but here’s why no-one dares tread on new ground.
Lessons from Monty Python for digital publishers: if Terry Gilliam were a 17 year old today he’d be a prolific online publisher – here’s why.
10 ways to make the most of your journalism course: starting a journalism course this autumn? Make sure you read this before you begin.
How to always have good ideas: ideas are the building blocks of journalism and publishing. But how do you stop yourself running out of them?
The age of the new media pioneer – and how you can become one: this is the most exciting time to be in journalism – but you have to make the most of it.
10 things you’ll hear at every journalism conference: a little bit of fun from me – the 10 cliches of every conference out there.
My call for transparency in journalism: it’s time for transparency in journalism – find out why.
Wow, we’re a quarter of the way through 2011 already! How did that happen?
I’ve had an intense but brilliant start to the year, producing four commissions for studio .fu, launching myNewsBiz (the deadline’s in one week!), continuing to lecture in video journalism at Kingston University, and of course keeping this blog up to date.
Every three months or so I try to sum up the most popular posts for those of you who might have missed them. Here’s the last one from 2010.
5 conventions every online video journalist should scrap – a controversial one, with plenty of comments.
10 free and totally legal programs for multimedia journalists – the most popular post this year by far. An update is on the way soon.
My 10 predictions for journalism in 2011 – check out my video predictions for the big trends in journalism this year.
Great online video: The Sartorialist – my favourite piece of online video so far this year.
10 Great themes for your online magazine – if you’re starting an online magazine, here’s a great resource of free & premium themes to use.
How journalists can get ahead of the game in 2011 – I rummage through JWT’s annual intelligence report to see if there are any big trends journalists should know.
Can journalists really be entrepreneurs? – I ask some of the most successful j-entrepreneurs in the UK.
The first question every entrepreneurial journalist should ask – you’ll have to click to find out what it is!
10 revenue streams for your news business – does what it says on the tin. I list 10 revenue streams every j-entrepreneur could use.
On revolution – This one got picked up by BBC News Online the night Mubarak fell.
If you like what you see, don’t wait for another three months to find out what posts you’ve missed: subscribe and get each email delivered straight into your inbox! The box is on the right…
In this week-long series, I’ll be taking a look at why you really can’t ignore blogging if you’re a journalist, guide you through the basics of getting started, and reveal some top tricks for making blogging work for you.
We all want readers, right?
There’s little more galling than spending hours on a crisp blog post, announcing your presence to the world and finding nobody’s listening.
The first thing to remember is this: why should anybody read what you write? Why should anyone know you exist? No-one has a right to be instantly noticed in the crowded online world. But it is possible to quite rapidly build a regular audience, and with that a community, prestige, perhaps even extra income.
I know this because I’ve been on the journey. This blog you’re reading now was started on the 1st September 2006 (after my Warwick one was closed down).
I started writing in earnest, and a few people read it – mostly friends and relatives. It maybe got a thousand page views a month, which amounts to roughly 30-odd a day.
And it carried on like this…for nearly three years.
It was OK, I never really had any blogging ambitions, (I was more interested in my journalism); I updated maybe two or three times a month, writing about whatever interested me.
Then, about 18 months ago, I did two things, which I hadn’t been doing before.
- I wrote about one single thing (and wrote about it well)
- I made sure whatever I wrote added value to other peoples’ lives.
That’s the blog you’re reading now: solely about multimedia journalism (and not interspersed with details about my last holiday), with lots of practical articles like this one.
And sure enough, more readers emerged.
I’ve learned over that time what brings and audience to a blog and what doesn’t. There was no keyword wizardry going on, I didn’t buy anything from Google. I just started writing good stuff, which helped other people.
Seems simple, right?
Five things you can do to add value to your blog and build an audience
Be valuable & regular
The most important thing you can do is write about a very specific thing, and write for an audience who are interested in that thing. So, if you’re a travel journalist, running a blog for business-travellers, write articles which they will find useful.
It’s the difference between an article titled “W00t! I got an article commissioned!!!1 ” and one called “5 iPhone apps to make your flights fly by”.
Put yourself in the shoes of your readers. What are the difficulties in their life (the pains, the wasted time or dollars, the boredom) which your journalism can fix?
Second of all, be regular. You should really be writing good, useful, valuable articles two or three times every week. Punctuate them with week-long specials (like this one), guest posts (see below) or links-of-the-week type posts.
The next most important thing to do is engage.
It is not enough to write for the masses, sit back and let them leave comments. Every comment you receive (especially in the early weeks and months) you should respond to. Any debate which sparks off the back of one of your posts you should join in with.
Be controversial. Be provocative. Make some noise. Challenge people.
Another great way to bring in readers, especially important ones, like big names in your field, is to comment on other peoples’ blogs. Say you’ve got competition from another blogger in the business-travel sector. Start commenting on their posts – they’re bound to follow the link back to your post.
Don’t make it obvious, just leave genuine, thoughtful and maybe provocative comments, and they’ll look at who you are.
An easy way to guarantee your posts are valuable to other people is to write plenty of ‘list’ posts. You’ll recognise them, especially if you’ve read my blog before, or Mashable, or Smashing Magazine. The one you’re reading right now is a list post (and you’re on number 3, by the way).
Lists are popular for two reasons. One, the reader can tell from the title alone whether the post will interest them and they can make a quick decision whether it’ll add value. A list-post title promises quantifiable, tangible advice as opposed to long-winded rhetoric.
And two, if they’re interested enough to click to your post, they can quickly scan down the list itself to see if they’re learning something new-they’ll either click away very quickly, or ideally, you’ve written something good so they’ll hang around.
Aim to write at least one list-post a week when you start blogging – you’ll make your blog so much more valuable.
Sneeze & squeeze posts
Sneeze and squeeze posts are used a lot by ‘professional’ bloggers but they’re useful to occasionally adopt yourself.
A sneeze post is a way of breathing life into old articles, usually taking the form of “Top 10 most popular posts this month” or “15 articles you might have missed”. See my quarterly ‘summary posts’ or the Media Blog’s weekly Top 10 for examples.
It’s a shame, isn’t it, when you write a new article, the one below it slowly slips beneath the waves. Writing a monthly, or quarterly sneeze post brings them back to life – and gives new readers a chance to look through your archive.
A squeeze post is another thing entirely. It’s actually a way to turn readers into either subscribers or customers. It offers them plenty of free stuff (like an ebook or a free report) in return for their valued email address. Something to think about if you decide to take your website to the next level.
Finally, another way to bring in readers with shit-hot content is to get other people involved, usually in the form of a guest post.
Identify the big players in your sector and invite them to write a post for you for free. They’ll usually be flattered, and will be happy to do it in return for some link-love. The best bit is they’ll link to your blog ever-after, so you get a chunk of their readers.
Think about interviewing other big players and publishing the interview too. On my other storytelling blog, blog.fu, I’ve invited four film directors to answer questions about their most recent pieces. It’s great for my readers, nice for them, and cool for me. Win, win, win!
And you thought blogging was just an amateur hobby! It is actually a little bit of an art and applying just a couple of these proven blog techniques will almost certainly bring in more readers. But the whole thing must be built on focused, valuable content.
If you’re not making your readers lives easier, more informed or entertained, why would they give you a slice of their fought over attention?
Journo blogger of the day: Christine Ottery
London based freelance journalist Christine Ottery is a good example of someone using not just one blog, but several, to really make the most of their niche and boost their position as an expert in the field.
Christine’s beat is science & environment news and she’s written for the likes of the Guardian and the Ecologist.
Her personal blog, Open Minds and Parachutes, while not that frequent, features some pretty long-form analysis of journalism and the environment, including this excellent piece about campaigning climate change journalism.
Christine’s blogging is similar to that of science journalist Angela Saini who I’ve mentioned many times before. Her blogging and journalism has led to a book deal. Seriously, I’ll say it again, if you are lucky enough to have a journalism specialism get out there and start a blog about it!
Tomorrow: 10 awesome plugins & themes to give your journalism blog spark
(*cough! list-post cough!*)
An accidental trawl through my old blog posts unveiled two articles predicting almost exactly the same as I’ve written about recently….from 2006.
“Never a better time to be a journalist” (31st December 2006) highlights an article from Andrew Neil saying:
The journalists of tomorrow will write for newspapers, contribute to magazines and podcasts, work for TV production companies, write their own blogs, because you wouldn’t give them a column – and then they will sell the blog back to you at an inflated price…“The journalist of the future…will have more than one employer and become a brand in their own right.”
“Futures” (28th September 2006) I put it (not so) delicately:
If you’re a newspaper journalist, you’re fucked. No not really, but it seems big change is on the horizon for the old hacks. UK paper circulation is declining big time; one doomsayers predicted something like 2043 as the year the last newspaper closes down.
I don’t know, it took me completely by surprise people were predicting this media revolution as long as go as 3 years ago.
Journalism tip #218: always be able to recycle old content as new!
Thanks to you if you commented on, shared, retweeted or blogged about my last post – Introducing: the Journalist of the Future. Thousands of hits later and your comments have been enlightening.
Here’s a summary of what you guys have been saying:
Great post, it’s great to see that some ideas i have are shared by others.I wrote about the same here, but i missed the specialist part. It’s true, a strong knowledge about a specific subject is an advantage, now more than ever.
The one area I would add to this is to say that the future journalist should also be a skilled data-miner. I think we (industry and educators) have focused heavily on multimedia storytelling (Flash and video) as the future of news, but also need to direct our attention to the wealth of information that can be had from the organization and presentation of data in the form of searchable databases and mashups.
Agreed – news gathering is as important as how it’s produced. I touched on it in a fashion, when I wrote about the importance of crowd sourcing news. And arguably – as this find by Cyberjournalist shows – it’s the ones who develop a niche for finding cool stuff who will get a headstart.
On twitter ElleAmeno wondered the same thing – “there’s a ‘driven’ quality to great reporters that’s more about ‘finding out’ than ‘telling’.” I agree : “I was wondering are there 2 types of journo? The one who loves digging stuff up and one who loves putting it out?……not wise to generalise I know, but could be a useful divide. As much as I’d love to be the former, I am prob the latter!”
And could it be that if The Media Standard Trust et al work through a trusted-kite mark system to acknowledge journalists who meet the new “standard”, it’s likely they’ll be further fragmentation, such that old style journalism will persist, new will hold its own and then there’s the unknown?
who pays the legal fees for the journalist of the future if some corporate entity doesn’t like what she wrote and tries to sue her to silence her?
The reason why traditional news media are important and cannot be replaced without a loss to civic life is that only salaried employees backed by the legal staff of a news organization can take the risk to do real investigative journalism. It is too easy for anyone in power to sue a freelancer.
So if you are correct, we will live in a world where one of the essential checks against corporate and government corruption will be gone. It’s a shame, but that’s where we are heading.
Quite the opposite Mark N! I think the future of journalism is a positive thing not a negative one! He makes a good point about how freelancers (and I suppose smaller niche publications) could become easy targets for corporate lawyers, something Elle picks up on:
If lawsuits and government suppression attempt to dictate coverage, then news breaks anonymously. In current media, credibility is earned through an appearance of a professional process to guarantee accuracy and objectivity.
Emerging media have broken that appearance down to expose its very human flaws – inescapable bias, human error, vanity, fear, concentrated into small organizations. In emerging media, credibility comes from publishing the evidence directly, and context is presented through the persistently streaming nature of the media; fear, bias, subjectivity and error exist, as they always will, but are dispersed among the broad group of active participants in the news, as opposed to the broad group of passive consumers in current mass media.
So, before the entrepreneur and the guy who plays well with others, how about the analyst? the people who remember some history? the people who study economics? the people with imagination?
And while I believe I actually fall into the category of the ‘Future Journalist’, BUT and this is the big one, I am struggling to find decently paid markets for my work and while many of us have adapted to the new skill sets necessary to produce vibrant, intelligent, well researched and critically thinking pieces, who is gonna pay for it?
Perhaps there is one very important category that can be added to the position of ‘Future Journalist’ -Salesperson.
I think “entrepreneur” covers the salesperson arena. This time you are selling yourself and your skills. It will require dogged sales skills as the market gets more competitive. But certainly the issue of funding journalism is still an unknown. Some are getting grants from charities, others being savvy with advertising.
The point of this type of future-journalist though is as a freelancer they don’t have to worry about meeting ad targets: they work alone getting a grant from here, doing a corporate gig there, selling some photography there etc…they will have to think outside the traditional realms of journalism.
But that’s what this is all about right?
It was a busy day. Lots of last minute editing to do for my radio station’s week of reports on Iraq and content to put online; then bits to send to sister radio stations in Leeds and Teeside; not to mention a huge amount of local news moving including some important court cases and inquest verdicts….
In short, probably not the time to engage in a debate about the future of journalism.
I said: I love doing online journalism and multimedia – but how do we make money out of it?
Matt said: No-one will ever pay for online content – not when it’s free everywhere else
I said: so how will we make any money as video journalists online?
Matt said: once newspapers ditch print and we all have Kindles, they’ll have audio, video and text – in short you’ll be a VJ for a big newspaper, and people will watch your films on the underground.
I said: but what about in the meantime?
…we both shrug our shoulders.
I then tweeted the summary – and caught the attention of @jonshuler (here’s his website) and the following debate occured in 140 characters or less-a snapshot of the new media debate raging across the world
Three young media types trying to figure out the future of their profession. That’s the new media debate - join in!
update: Check out this video from Beet.tv: they interviewed online video producer Zadi Diaz at SXSW. Her advice for getting through the tough times: team up with other producers and see if you can come up with a good way to make it work financially. You have to think outside the box. When online money dries up Zadi switches to consulting/advising others to keep herself going.